Invoicing a client abroad, for a service or a good, whether you are independent or working within a company, requires special attention. While the approach is not that different from traditional national invoicing, international sales involve some notable nuances.
Identical legal notices in France and abroad
Firstly, it is appropriate to affix the same legal notices to an invoice intended for international markets as for a French invoice. You will therefore need to include on your document:
- The date of issue,
- The invoice number,
- The identification of the buyer with his contact details,
- Identification of the supplier with his contact details and SIREN number,
- The exact designation and quantity of each product,
- Unit prices, excluding tax and total amounts,
- Information concerning VAT or its exemption,
- Payment terms and possible penalties.
But also :
- The intra-community VAT number for a transaction in the EU,
- The currency in which the amounts are expressed and the exchange rate used,
- Any transport costs paid by the exporter,
- VAT exemption clauses (see below).
Translate the invoice and choose the appropriate currency
If your invoice is intended for a non-French-speaking customer, it is important to translate it. You can opt for two solutions: translate the invoice into the buyer’s language or translate it into English, internationally recognized as a commercial language. An excellent practice is to write two copies of your invoice: one in English or in the customer’s native language, the other in French. This will facilitate your dealings with the French tax administration, which prefers the language of Molière.
To invoice a foreign customer, you must produce a document in the currency of the destination country. However, you must ensure that the currency in question complies with the ISO 4217 standard and is convertible into euros. This is the case for the vast majority of currencies. In practice, you will have to indicate the amount to be paid in the foreign currency and indicate below the exchange rate on the day of the issue date according to the European Central Bank. This amount in euros will be used for accounting, but the amount collected may vary depending on the volatility of exchange rates.
Many invoicing tools incorporate current standards, which are regularly updated, whether your client is located in France, Europe or elsewhere in the world. They allow you to not forget anything by offering invoice templates.
Billing in the European Union
Even if you are subject to VAT, you do not have to charge it if your customer is located in one of the member states of the European Union. VAT is in fact due by the customer in his own country. You must mention on your invoice:
- The amount excluding tax,
- A VAT rate of 0%,
- A mention of “self-liquidation of VAT” or “Reverse charge of VAT” in English,
- Your intra-community VAT number.
This intra-community VAT number must be entered on the document, even if you do not collect it. It consists of your SIREN number, a country code and a personal code, which you can obtain directly from your tax service.
The declaration of exchange of services (DES) or exchange of goods (DEB)
If you are a service provider to a client located in the European Union, you will need to complete, every 10th of the month, a European declaration of services, or DES. It allows you to declare your tax-free turnover from EU customers. To obtain it, you can go to the site customs.gouv.fr. You will have to repeat the operation each time you issue an invoice of this type.
Likewise, for the sale of goods intra-EU, if a customs declaration is not required, you will be asked for a declaration of exchange of goods (DEB), “resuming all intra-community trade operations”specifies the general directorate of customs.
Billing outside the European Union
For customers outside the European Union, VAT is not charged and it is not necessary to request an intra-community VAT number. However, this requires specific information to be included on your invoice. In particular, it will be necessary to mention:
- The amount excluding tax,
- The VAT rate at 0%,
- For service providers, the words “VAT Exoneration – Article 259-1 of the CGI” or “VAT not applicable according to article 259-1 of the French Tax General Code (CGI)” in English,
- For the sale of goods, the words “VAT Exoneration – Article 262 1° of the CGI” or “VAT not applicable according to article 262 1° of the French Tax General Code (CGI)” in English.